This paper suggests greenhouse gas accounting and reporting procedures for the agricultural sector, based on the GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard.

Executive Summary

About the GHG Protocol

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol is a decade-long partnership between the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. It works with businesses, governments, and environmental groups around the world to build a new generation of credible and effective standards for the accounting and reporting of GHG emissions at the corporate, project, and product levels.

Corporate inventories of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions provide a firm foundation for emissions management by business. But they rarely include agricultural emissions, often because of confusion about the best practices needed to address unique aspects of agricultural sources. This paper suggests accounting and reporting procedures based on the GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard. The objective is to stimulate and inform discussion amongst stakeholders towards a common understanding of best practices.

Agricultural activities cause greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from a diverse range of sources. An equally diverse range of issues affects whether and how these emissions should be included in corporate GHG emissions inventories. This paper provides a preliminary assessment of these issues and how they can be addressed within the framework provided by the GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard (Corporate Standard). The key findings are:

  1. The Corporate Standard outlines generic accounting procedures that are directly applicable to many of the organizational and operational structures common in the agricultural sector, such as co-operatives, leasing arrangements, and commodity production contracts.

  2. Accounting for the GHG emissions from equipment and machinery on farms is relatively straightforward. But the emissions from non-mechanical sources, such as soils and livestock, are more challenging. Specific challenges include the variability in GHG emission rates over time and space, the difficulty in disentangling the effects of current management practices on GHG emissions from those caused by natural factors, and the reversibility of carbon stocks and the long timescales over which carbon stocks change.

  3. Consensus best practices for dealing with these challenges do not yet exist, but such best practices might include:

  • Separately reporting GHG data on mechanical and non-mechanical sources within inventories

  • Reporting carbon stock information using data on both stock size and carbon dioxide (CO2) fluxes

  • Allocating long-term changes in carbon stocks evenly across multiple reporting periods

  • Reporting the current impact of historical changes in land management practices on carbon stocks. Companies should adopt a time threshold to determine when historical management changes are relevant

  • Reporting all GHG emissions from land use change under an appropriate scope and not as a separate memo item.

This paper concentrates on core GHG accounting and reporting issues, but a range of other issues are also relevant to the creation of GHG inventories. For instance: What business goals do agricultural companies have for addressing climate change and how are GHG inventories useful in meeting these goals? How can companies acquire the activity data needed to calculate GHG emissions? And what gaps exist in emissions calculation methodologies and how should these gaps be handled within GHG inventories? The GHG Protocol intends to develop a consensus-based GHG accounting and reporting protocol for the sector. A crucial next step is to conduct broad stakeholder consultations on this paper and identify remaining questions.